Two words: Cider. Licious. OK, you got me on a technicality, but hear me out: Ciderlicious, the mobile purveyor of the biggest selection of cider in the greater Eugene-Springfield area, has set up shop on River Road. Officially named Ciderlicious at the Cider Station, this is a re-location of the same setup Ciderlicious started with in the Friendly neighborhood, but with far more turf and room for fun and food carts.
The Cider Station currently has 15 ciders and two beers on tap, with more on the way. There is a big tent with repurposed cable spool tables and picnic tables and plenty of seating. A large yard further back has room for more tables and lawn games. There are also three food trucks, Lanikai, The Dipper, and Dark Side of the Q. Right now, they are also serving up weekend brunches, a rarity on River Road.
The River Road area is the closest thing to a “beer desert” in Eugene, with only two places that carry a majority craft beer: The Filling Station growler shop and taproom way up north, and the beer and wine bar inside(!) the Fred Meyer just north of Beltline. Cider Station, located just north of Happy Hours near Park Ave., right near the river bike path, is more convenient for the closer-in River Rd. crowd.
Owner Randy Nelson is high-energy and tactfully candid. He grew up in Springfield, and started homebrewing in high school. His long-time experience in the restaurant industry, an MBA, and entrepreneurial gigs in the tech and motorcycle worlds make opening a cider-focused cart pod seem understated, but Nelson has bigger plans.
“This is fermentation central,” he says about Eugene, “and people appreciate a craft product.” Starting out in the Friendly neighborhood, one of the older ‘hoods of Eugene with a hearty liberal DIY-minded population, was a good introductory move. “If we hadn’t started on Friendly Street, I don’t know if we’d exist now.” At first, most of the taplist was sweeter ciders; that gradually changed as his clientele became more educated about cider.
The move to River Road wasn’t initially the plan. “We did not want to leave [Friendly Street],” says Nelson, “we were forced to leave.” He wanted to carry out his current vision there, but had maxed out capacity. That was all he would say about the matter. Currently, a beer-centric trailer called B’s Tap House occupies the spot, operating in much the same way.
The Cider Station is pushing ahead with Nelson’s vision as he looks to establish similar enterprises “on the outskirts” of town, where craft cider and beer are less represented.
Every Thursday is “Take It Off Thursday,” when a few of the ciders are put on discount to help roll through to the next ones. The taplist offers a diverse array of apple-based beverages from sweet to dry; most lie somewhere in the middle. Most of the ciders are crafted in Oregon, with the occasional Blue Mountain or Finn River cider from Washington, or Ace and Golden State from California; no Angry Orchard here. Hi-Wheel Fizzy Wines (sugar-based fermentations with fruit) from Portland add some extra flair to the list, too.
Nelson and his employees are well-versed in the products, and happy to offer as many samples as it takes to find the right one, and may also suggest a blend with one of the hot pepper-spiced ciders on tap for extra fun in your mouth (or just take the heat!)
Over the last couple of years, cider was one of the fastest growing sectors in the alcohol industry, and certainly saw a swift growth in Oregon. The Eugene area now has three cideries, with WildCraft, Evenfall (formerly Rookshire Lane), and Cyderish each producing unique ciders using different techniques. Ciderlicious is the first business in the south Willamette Valley to take up the reins and present as much of the variety in cider as there is in beer (though, oddly, the taplist has not shown much Eugene love).
As mentioned, customer education about cider is essential for people to enjoy the range of taste and flavor that equals that of wine, and can lead to excellent food pairing adventures. Dry cider is often an acquired taste, as variations in the acid/tannin balance affect the perception of any residual sweetness, and bring out complexities far beyond the simple “apple” descriptor. For the carb-conscious, a fully dry cider has zero sugar content, yet can still have body if balanced properly.
Cider culture was another victim of Prohibition; the Johnny Appleseed story, as told by Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire, was a proliferation of wild apples that were primarily used to make cider. The temperance movement hit cider hard, and it’s only now reattaining its place in the beverage consciousness. New England and Michigan have had small cider producers for some time, keeping the fires burning. For a while, the most popular ciders were the sweeter offerings from Woodchuck in Vermont, followed by Angry Orchard (a division of Boston Beer Co.). While those still remain the most popular, sales of 2 Towns cider recently outstripped Angry Orchard in Oregon; a remarkable feat.
675B River Rd.
Eugene, OR, 97404
Closed Mon & Tues